I remember being at a festival a few years ago in the middle of a warm summer day, the sun shining down upon a laughing group of strangers that had become best friends overnight. I overheard someone outlining the “rules” of returning from a festival: Don’t quit your job. Don’t break up with your partner. Don’t book a plane ticket. I smiled to myself and thought those three things to be pretty unlikely.
This particular festival was a conscious gathering of kindred souls—yoga and dance classes, amazing healthy cafes and tea stalls, space for workshops and theater, a huge green field to camp with a flowing stream and waterfall. It wasn’t a rave, it wasn’t a rally, it wasn’t a drug or alcohol-fueled event for people to escape their everyday lives. Why would I feel the need to change my whole life after leaving, I wondered.
Well, I did. I returned home and I quit my job, broke up with my partner, and booked a plane ticket to Costa Rica. It’s true—I had met someone over those few carefree days of sunshine, mantras, and psychedelic leggings that I wanted to get to know a little better: me.
Something very special happens in a festival environment. Inspiration swirls around you like incense and your inhibitions are left at the gate. You have an open license to play, to explore, to expand. Before leaving home you will most likely scour the festival program, highlighting in bright red ink the “must-do” events and the “must-see” acts. Maybe we stick to this, but more often than not, the festival comes alive, it takes over, and intuition guides you. You’re drawn into a tent with melodies and lyrics that spike your ears and touch your heart. You are drawn into a yoga class that is just beginning as you walk by and the sound of the communal aum deeply resonates within your soul. You are drawn into a campfire under a star-filled nights’ sky where every stranger’s face is somewhat familiar. You belong. You are welcome. You are home.
We sign an invisible contract at the door that allows us freedom of self-expression.
As soon as the tent is pitched and you have a vague mental map of the grounds, the festival becomes a playground waiting to be explored. One of the things I love most about these events is that there is no hierarchy, there is no ego—everyone comes together with shared interests, meaning that age, gender, race, and whether or not you can touch your toes or you’re modeling the latest yoga fashions don’t factor into the equation.
There is an almost tangible “can do” mentality at these festivals. Reiki workshops? I’ll give it a go. Wheatgrass and turmeric shots? Count me in. Tantric massage? Sounds intriguing. Silent disco? Yes please! We sign an invisible contract at the door that allows us freedom of self-expression. Surrounded by nature and like-minded souls, aware that this is a temporary experience and “real life” waits in the car park, we feel open, trusting, adventurous, and inquisitive, like small children again, in a new realm of play. The imposed (or imaginary) shackles of day-to-day life are replaced by flowy fabrics and delicate mala beads. The question at these events isn’t where are you from and what do you do. It is, “What sets your heart on fire?”
We are creatures of community and these events offer the perfect Kula: a community of the heart, a group coming together of its own free will. An intentional community, a family. Within this safe space, we not only forge new relationships with others, we forge a new relationship with ourselves. We dive deeply into our spirit and soul. Each time I surrender to a festival, I find myself in tears of overwhelming joy over and over again, euphoric in an electrically-charged ecstatic Kirtan circle, losing myself entirely in dance and music, jumping into the cool waters of a natural stream or simply having long, wandering conversations with people who get you—who really get you.
You can’t help but want to make these experiences last far longer than a few days. Alas, even upon packing down the tent and hitting the asphalt road home, these festivals are reminders, call them check-ins, to make sure we are living from the heart, being true to ourselves, nourishing our spirit and focusing on the things that make us feel truly alive.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend everyone leaves these events and quits their job, leaves their relationship, and boards a plane. Alas, I wouldn’t discourage it either. I certainly have no regrets. The powerful festival I experienced sincerely woke me. It opened my eyes and heart in a way that couldn’t be ignored and I simply couldn’t fit back into the world I had ventured from only days earlier.
You may not attend a festival or gathering expecting to find something, but chances are, you will. Hidden treasures rest in every moment, waiting to be discovered. We spend a great deal of time telling ourselves (verbally or inwardly) what we can’t do, what we are too old to try, what we shouldn’t be doing. These events eradicate this mentality and light the candle to all that we can do, all that we are capable of.
One of my favorite quotes by Rumi is, “Be silently drawn by what sets your heart of fire, it will never lead you astray.” We come to doubt our ability to follow our passions and our truth. But surrounded by inspiring souls and experiencing a world that we silently dream could exist 24/7 gives us a little push in the direction of those dreams. Upon leaving, the challenge is to ride this wave of inspiration, to carry it out into the world beyond the roped boundaries of the festival. As the grounds become nothing more than a shimmering glow in the review mirror, that is the moment to set the intention to make every day open to magical and infinite possibilities.
Kelly Fielding is a passionate writer and raw/vegan chef who combines her love of writing with her forays into health and wellness. She is the author of Bella and Bhakti, which offers information about plant-based living and vibrant nourishing recipes, as well as inspiration to encourage others to share their own passions and dreams. You can also contact Kelly for catering and healthy lunch deliveries through her Sunshine Coast-based business Nourish Noosa.